Trailer camps began appearing in the late 1930’s and sprung up around vacation destinations near beaches and deserts. These camps were designed as a temporary land use to provide lodging for people towing “caravans” and travel trailers. These parks and were usually under 100 spaces and typically provided bathrooms, showers and utility hook ups. As time passed, these trailer parks either disappeared or made way for new development, or they became long-term housing for people living in small travel trailer or singlewide units. In the Inland Empire agriculture areas these travel trailer parks became popular for migrant workers and remain so today.
Most of the “typical mobile home parks” in the region were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Like the older trailer camps, many were built as interim land uses on former farmland, with temporary conditional use permits (CUP) from local cities and counties to build the parks. One of the primary incentives to build a mobile home park was the ability to realize income from the land to help pay property tax. Prior to the adoption of Proposition 13 in 1978 California tax assessors taxed property on the basis of its highest and best use. Farmland was being developed for housing and the zoning master plan set aside blocks of land for future commercial and industrial development. It is common to find mobile home parks developed on major highways in commercial and industrial areas of cities.
The parks built in the 1960’s and 70’s focused on providing larger spaces for new doublewide mobile homes and a lifestyle to attract retirees. Clubhouses, pools, shuffleboard, a place to store RV’s, and organized activities topped the list of amenities. Retirees could sell their stick built home and purchase a new mobile home leaving behind maintenance and yard work and enjoy the modern facilities at the new mobile home park. In the mid-60’s a typical new doublewide mobile home sold for $15,000 in a new park and rents were $75 or less – about half the cost of a new site built home of similar size – but with a lot more amenities and literally worry free.
In 1981, the last new manufactured housing community was built in Orange County. The manufactured homes had evolved in design and quality to match site-built homes and with ground level installation and site-built garages; the neighborhood took on the look of a site-built project, but with “country club” amenities and an attractively affordable price tag.
A few new parks have been built in the Inland Empire in the past ten years, but, with today’s land and improvement costs, building new rental/land lease manufactured housing communities today is not feasible.